Turning Earth / Make Space Conference
A peer-to-peer learning opportunity
How do you create a ceramics makerspace?
Thurs 10 / Fri 11 / Sat 12 May 2018
Turning Earth believes that if hand making were a widespread way of life, we’d all be better off. This belief is at the heart of everything we do.
We think makerspaces can help replace unsustainable consumerism with a kinder, more fulfilling approach to life. We want to see this movement make rapid progress, renewing communities in each corner of the world through the creation of new meeting places. We believe that makerspaces are the thriving community centres of tomorrow.
Since Turning Earth opened in 2013, a large number of people have approached us for advice about how to set up a similar space in their area. In some cases we have received more than one approach from people living in the same city who weren’t aware of each other. We want to create a focused, efficient way to share our knowledge and answer questions that other entrepreneurs have in depth. We also want to learn from the experience of others and create a platform for new partnerships and friendships.
Makerspaces are creating empowering new models for peer-to-peer learning between makers. Now we'd like to extend this philosophy to the makers of makerspaces.
The conference is available to anyone anywhere, whether their project is still in development or already up and running. It will benefit entrepreneurs in both urban and rural settings, whether they have ceramics knowledge, or a business background, or neither, or both. Visionaries across the UK and Europe and further afield are working separately for the same purpose, many with mutually beneficial skill sets. We think we would all gain enormously from the opportunity to come together with others.
In addition to the syllabus outlined below, there will be opportunities to share experience and to ask questions both of Turning Earth’s directors, and of each other. In this short two day intensive we will cover a lot of ground and connect in a way that empowers us all to form lasting working relationships and friendships.
Participants will leave the event plugged in to an independent ‘Make Space for Ceramics’ network, with a private Facebook group for continued knowledge sharing after the event, alongside any other coordinated activities decided by the group.
This event is entirely non-profit: all the money taken will be used to cover the costs of the event. A limited number of half price early bird tickets are available and additional people from the same team can come at a reduced cost.
Please note, as we have a number of projects in development in London, we request that you contact us separately before signing up if you would like to open up in this city. We are currently developing some exciting local partnership and franchise opportunities, and we want to be careful to ensure that we work with local entrepreneurs in a collaborative and mutually empowering way.
Meet & Greet at Turning Earth E2: Thursday 10th May, 6.30pm
Conference at Hoxton Hall E2: Friday and Saturday 11th and 12th May, 10-6 pm
Turning Earth E10 tour and social Friday evening
Early bird - £60
Regular price - £120
Additional team members - £40
Topics include: Business modelling, Financing, Finding sites, Marketing and brand, Operations and systems, Classes and membership, Member management, Human resources, Accountancy and legal, Equipment, Leadership, Collaboration
Lewis Maughan, MD Turning Earth
Tallie Maughan, Founder Turning Earth
James Otter, MD Potclays
UK Crafts Council
1. Business model creation
What makes a good location
Working from vision
Limitation as a creative tool
2. Site and operations
Air quality and ventilation
Fire and health and safety
Risk assessments and compliance
3. Sourcing equipment
Points to consider
Q&A with James Otter, MD of Potclays
4. Marketing and brand
Developing your brand
An integrated approach
Interior design: aesthetics and functionality
Online community building
Social media platforms
Data mining and contact lists
5. Classes and memberships
The importance of open-access/membership
How to integrate open-access/membership
6. Membership management
Back end systems
Customising online management systems
Onboarding and exits
Training your usergroup
7. Systems and processes
Management through limitation
Buying and selling materials
Waste clay and reclaim
8. Human resources
Building your team
Handling the skills shortage
9. Accountancy and legal
Streamlining using apps
Formation of your company/organisation
Forms of social enterprise
The role of vision and values
Dealing with challenges
The 'art in the black' profit model
Business planning and financial forecasting
Lean start-up model
Turning Earth resources
Makerspaces as a collaborative model
Towards a common vision
Learn more about the In Production studio here: http://e10.turningearth.uk/
We're opening a second space! Watch our video! Visit the E10 website: http://e10.turningearth.uk/
Isn't it sweet? And if you've ever walked into our sale and said 'that seems expensive', now you know why. A lot of work goes into each and every piece. And a lot of love too...
Video made by long-time Turning Earth member, Azem Williams, starring other long-term member, Stine Dulong.
Today Tallie met Shadow Chancellor John MCDonnell @Building BloQs, the big multidisciplinary makerspace in Enfield. The Labour Party are developing policies that would support the rollout of makerspaces like Turning Earth and BloQs across the UK. We are excited to hear more of their plans.
Also in the picture is Liz Corbin, co-founder of the Open Workshop Network, which aims to connect collaborative workspaces like ours, and get them, well, collaborating.
After Boris Johnson himself visited Building BloQs to announce that he was getting behind the enterprise with a massive £1.4 million cash injection, it seems that politicians are beginning to understand the value that our efficient uses of space can bring. We're excited to see where this movement is going...
Ceramic Art London, one of the most important international ceramics events of the year, starts this Friday. The event, held at the new Central St Martin's Building in Kings Cross, showcases the work of 88 established and emerging artists especially chosen to represent some of the most exciting work that is currently being made in the UK and across the world. As a Turning Earth member or supporter, I very much encourage you to check it out.
Ceramic Art London is produced through the collaborative efforts of the Craft Potters Association and Ceramic Review magazine. Part high-end ceramics sale, part exhibition, part industry showcase, it's paradise for anyone that loves ceramics.
This year, Turning Earth supporter Ali Tomlin is one of the exhibitors. We love her delicate colouring of porcelain. Akiko Hirai, another personal favourite, will also be there. Her pieces, like Delft paintings, somehow manage to bind the light. I'm also very much looking forward to seeing the lively little animals of sculptural artist, Charlotte Mary Pack, a Central St Martins graduate from 2013.
And there are talks and films too. One that might interest Turning Earth members is Javier Cuadros' Saturday morning talk on clay mineralogy and geochemistry. We hear he will be presenting a time trip "to the origin of Life and back, with a detour on Mars". Clayground Collective and London Potters are organising a foraging session by the Thames on Saturday morning, to coincide with the event, so you can learn about the development of ceramics and the history of London. Led by Thames archeologist, Mike Webber, it promises to be fascinating; the beach is apparently the biggest archaeological trench in the country, littered with pot shards.
Ceramic Art London has always been my favourite art event in this city (well, now apart from Turning Earth sales, of course!) Taken there for the first time in 2008, I fell in love with a large wall piece, a ceramic on mesh 'canvas' by the wonderful French artist Olivia Chague. Not having the guts or the cash to buy it at the time (in my mid-twenties and my first job), I ended up following her back to her atelier in the Alps that summer, where I had an unforgettable day seeing where she worked, in a pit in her garden in the warm sun. I realised that day that I really wanted to learn to make things in ceramics myself. And I also decided I wanted a career promoting other artists (I still feel that Olivia's work should be more widely known). I bought the piece, which cost me about 10 percent of my small graduate annual salary. It felt a bit foolish back then, especially as it waited patiently in storage in London for seven long years until I returned to the UK and had somewhere to put it. The piece is in my kitchen now, and reminds me every day of how much I love ceramics, and the journeys - physical and emotional - that I went through to get Turning Earth open. I imagine many journeys in this craft begin at Ceramic Art London.
If you haven't been before, then I strongly recommend you get your tickets here and go along. It's one of the most inspiring events in the city.
Ceramic Art London: Friday 8, Saturday 9, Sunday 10 April 2016
Venue: Central St Martins, Kings Cross
London Potters contact (for the shore walk): email@example.com. For information on other walks contact Clayground Collective.
Images (from top left): Bowl by Ali Tomlin, monkeys by Charlotte Mary Pack, tea bowls by Akiko Hirai, vase by Elke Sada, installation by Emily Gardin, bowl by Kyra Cane.
Thanks to everyone who made it down to our Easter Sale yesterday. Hope you are enjoying the rest of the bank holiday. It was another record-breaking sale for us, and together we raised over £1000 (and counting) for the charity Help Refugees as a result of you all buying work donated by Turning Earth potters.
We had food-art bento boxes from Shiso Delicious and music from The Turbans, ahead of their big crowdfund launch today.
Here's a couple of snaps. We'll upload some more next week when we've had a bit more rest. You can see them on our past events gallery.
The Summer Sale is June 18th and 19th (which is also Father's day, so bring your dad): https://www.facebook.com/events/189869021395968/
Photos by Turning Earth's Artur Rummel.
There's always been a special atmosphere at our events, right from the crowdfund launch at Turning Earth's beginning, and so I am looking forward to this weekend's immensely. When I look at what we've achieved together, and what the studio means to people, I feel as if I could burst with happiness. I really do have the dream job; even the dream life. I am lucky enough to work every day with an older brother who I adore, in an environment that I find inspiring. And what's more, I'm surrounded by some of the most talented ceramic artists I've met. I sincerely think that the work that is made in Turning Earth is some of the most beautiful in the world. I feel very, very lucky to be part of it.
This week I have been reminded that my life hasn't always been this way. In a training session on leadership we were asked to describe how we might have been shaped by our childhoods, and so I explained that my father had died when I was 4, and that I'd been in foster care at 15. After the session, one of the other people in the group grabbed me to tell me that my account of my life had surprised her: from my way of expressing myself she had seen me as someone born to privilege, with a good education and a close family and the world at my feet. She hadn't suspected that I'd been through trauma, and she felt closer to me when she became aware of it. But I have to admit I was embarrassed by the situation - I have never known how to talk about the events of my childhood without sounding dramatic or attention seeking, and it feels wrong at the same time to downplay the impact of it. So I felt awkward and I scuttled away.
Suffering is a funny thing. Once it's no longer on the table, it kind of disappears from view. It's much easier to ignore it and carry on. I think this is something we do collectively - it's all sort of embarrassing and no one quite knows what to say about it, and so we seem to have agreed not to focus on it. And that's pretty emotionally crippling when disaster strikes - we have no way to know what to do to help ourselves or each other. I think it's important that we are able to engage with these things, even when it's uncomfortable, although it's pretty hard to know how to handle them.
It happens that the experience of loss has been pretty present for me lately. A few days ago, I went to a conference and met someone who'd worked at the same paper as my father, before he died. It was almost like my dad had come in to see me at work. After I left the conference, I found myself crying in the street, yet again trying to visualise him, and failing. Childhood loss never leaves you. You lose in childhood, and then you lose over and over again in adulthood as you meet each milestone. Even the milestone of succeeding at the thing you hold dear has tears in it, simply because the person that loved you will never see it. But I am one of the lucky ones; I have had the support I needed to recover. I have received a huge amount of help.
People have told me I am like my father when it comes to my approach to work: he was passionate about his job as a financial journalist, and was writing about the city even on his deathbed, because he loved it so much. He lived and breathed his work, as I do. And I suspect I share that with him also because I lost him: it's been an attempt to fill the gap he left - as capable and determined as he was - that made me so very driven to succeed. His loss is part of the fabric I was formed from.
And this is my point really. If the loss of my father could be so defining, if the events of my childhood a lifetime ago were really that life-altering, then how can I wrap my mind around the fact that right now there are people shivering in a refugee camp a few hundred miles away, without adequate support? While I plan a lovely day to buy and sell pots, flush with the temporary victory of having created something beautiful and worthwhile, there are people who have lost everything, living in the mud and the cold, worrying about their family members. These people are having a far worse experience than I encountered, and I've had a lot of help to cope. Somehow it still seems far away, so much of the time. I don't know the refugees in Calais or see them in the flesh, and so I'm not immediately affected; I don't feel their pain in the way I feel the experience of the people that I care about. But the problem is still there, to reverberate forever if it's left unaddressed. People don't heal on their own. Nor do political situations. It takes other people getting involved.
Lisa, one of Turning Earth's member mentors, has been spending time in Calais, helping refugee families. When she came back, she asked that we make a collection for Help Refugees, a charity working on the ground there, during the sale. It feels like an important opportunity to direct some of the community energy that has grown around Turning Earth, so that it can have an impact where it is most needed. I hope to see our small revolution to make life more beautiful, here, now, somehow help those people on the other side of the water living without the luxuries we are currently fortunate enough to trade. Turning Earth was always, to me, about more than just the making. In its name is the seed of the desire to do things differently, to make things better.
So, this weekend during our sale we are raising money from our seconds table to donate to Help Refugees. We are also collecting warm blankets and sleeping bags to take to the refugee camps in Calais and Dunkirk. Because right now, over there, a child's life is being torn apart. I know from experience that when your family falls apart it is the kindness of strangers that makes it possible to get back on your feet.
If you have blankets and sleeping bags to donate to people living in the cold in temporary shelters, then please bring them with you to the sale tomorrow. We will get them to the people that need them. You can also make a donation at our charity table, or buy some of the specially donated pots from our artists.
See you there. There'll also be delicious food, mulled cider and homemade hot cross buns. :)
Collaboration. I've always found it a difficult concept. I once had a colleague laugh out loud at me when I told her that I believed in 'collaboration without compromise' (otherwise known as being controlling). We both found it funny, but I stick to the catchphrase, believing that somehow it is possible, and that one day I will know how to do it. And I know that collaboration is a sticky area for many other people in the co-working studio environment too. How do you work together on a commission, for example? How do you decide who takes the reins? Who gets the credit? How do you share a workshop and protect your intellectual property? I think the feeling of vulnerability that comes when you are in a creative process with nothing concrete to show for yourself, no way of knowing that what you are envisioning will work and won't fail dramatically, and nothing that is solidly yours, is something we are each wrestling with in our individual way.
I used to think that all I had to do (like a classic hermit artist) was to shut myself up somewhere and have good ideas. Other people were all a bit too complicated. I thought if I kept private, put my head down and wished hard enough, somehow the universe would move in to support me - and it has often seemed to do so. But lately, after struggling with some pretty intractable problems (finding the right space for our next location, for example), it became apparent to me that actually, I need help. And I need help from my peers.
So, a month ago I swallowed my pride and called in at Building BloQs, the great big makerspace for all disciplines (wood, metal, plastics and textiles etc) up in Enfield, which has just been given a ginormous building to expand into, and funding to the tune of a whopping £2.8 million. After growing more slowly than Turning Earth, causing me to fret about them quite a bit over the last couple of years (all the way up there near the Angel Road IKEA and worryingly much off the beaten track), suddenly it appeared that the folks up there knew something I didn't.
Building BloQs was founded at very much the same time as us, by a very old friend of mine, Arnaud Nichols, and several of his buddies. Arnaud is part of a small group of friends I had as a twenty odd year old who were all committed to a vision of radical change in society. We'd spent several summers together working in a nude sauna and cafe, 'Lost Horizon', that some of our friends set up, and which is still going strong in the Green Fields at Glastonbury Festival, among other places. Arnaud and I had also put on our own festival, one equinox, in a field in the Chilterns. We'd always shared a common vision, dreaming even then about creating an alternative economic system, which is something we are both now practically engaged in. It kind of feels as if we were born under the same star.
About three years ago, I'd just moved back from America, and Arnaud and I were both running fledgling makerspaces. His, a big empty space with very few people in it, and mine, only a Facebook following and an incomplete lease negotiation. I went to meet him one evening in his freezing cold and echoing warehouse and he made the first iteration of the logo for Turning Earth. His guys were struggling with a name for what they were doing, and he showed me the 3D model they'd made for the space, a bunch of wooden blocks, representing bloqs where people would build in different materials. "Easy", I said. "It's here already: Building Blocks." And so there you have it: Building BloQs. We are deeply in each other's debt.
Walking back into Building BloQs - now the largest and one of the best equipped maker spaces in London, with massive funding and huge support - I was reminded of that collaboration. And I realised that Arnaud's collaborative skills (he is one of a group of four equal co-founders, and has always worked with a large democratic team) have paid dividends. Doing things the collaborative way, through a series of committees, can be slow at first, but it builds a foundation of community and diverse skills that create both resilience in hard times and opportunities to create better times. And it shows. The place is beautiful now. And the new place they build will be more of the same - a great light space for creative innovation, filled with people who are passionate about their shared vision, emblematised in the building itself. Building BloQs. Like Turning Earth, it's not really a brand, it's a movement. And it's the same movement.
Al Parra, Arnaud's right hand man and another Building BloQs co-founder, sat down with me, and as is always the case with the BloQs team, very generously shared his insight into forging relationships with our local council, among other tips on networking. I shared some perspectives on marketing and how to build on social media, which we are doing very successfully at Turning Earth. We both left the meeting inspired about what to do next.
Which brings me to what this blog is really about. The thing that Al was most keen to introduce me to while he had me in the BloQs Cafe, (did I tell you they have a cafe there, where they serve delicious and affordable food?) was Open Workshops London (OWL), an initiative he has been part of since its inception, and which launched officially, along with a website (openworkshopnetwork.com) in April last year. Liz Corbin, one of its co-founders, happened to be sitting in the BloQs cafe, along with some guy from the local Chamber of Commerce and a bunch of other useful people I should really probably know. It turned out she had been sending me emails for a year, which I had not been receiving. She'd been running under the radar of Turning Earth, although we were very much on hers.
Liz and her team have created something amazing. They have created the first incarnation of an infrastructure that I believe will eventually join the forty odd maker-spaces in London together. Recognising that we are operating as part of an emergent movement, they have been holding monthly meet ups for the founders and managers of these makerspaces, so that we can get together and do more of what Arnaud and Al and I have naturally been doing since we started: supporting each other. The network has created strong supportive relationships between spaces that might previously have seen each other as competition. Through participation in the networking meetings, the managers at Building Bloqs and the nearby Blackhorse Workshops, for example, have seen that they serve a common purpose by meeting the needs of slightly different people. They now refer users to each other.
There are very obvious benefits that come from people working in the same field getting together, cooperating and sharing ideas. And it appears that this is what the makerspace movement does, in its essence. Yes, in a co-work studio it can feel risky, because all of your designs and visual ideas are exposed at a vulnerable stage to a wider community. It involves a lot of trust. But the benefits are immense: in a co-work ceramics studio you have access to cheaper rates, more glazes and clay bodies, and a lot of help and support from other makers. Your own ideas are stimulated. And what's more, you have the friendship of other people that you see every day who share the same interests, and concerns, and the same common problems. You very naturally move to support one another. For a sole-trader craftsman, which can often be a bit of a lonely deal, this kind of company is special. People vie to participate in symposiums for just these benefits.
What Open Workshops London (OWL) will do is going to deepen and add to this, in a way that I am only just beginning to wrap my head around. What Liz has started is to bring founders of the various co-work studios across London together to form a series of working groups that will create strategies for collaboration between the studios, and perhaps more importantly, to create a framework for collaboration between the makers that use the studios. One of the first ideas being explored is to design a common currency that we can use. This would eventually make it possible for a ceramicist at Turning Earth to make, for example, tiles, in exchange for credits at Building BloQs, which they can then use to pay a woodworker there to fabricate them a work table. The woodworker may then be able to use these credits at another open studio in London to buy - say - a piece of glass art to go in the back of a chair he's making. The possibilities are endless. And London is just the starting point. After OWL is established in London, the Open Workshop Network plans to grow to cover all the open-access workshops in the country.
For now, you can use the Open Workshops Network map to find open workshops that might help you when you are doing a mixed media project. We are also planning a meet up in the Autumn, which will allow users of makerspaces across the capital to come together and share their ideas and concerns.
And what will we get from this? A community of makers that reaches out far beyond the walls of Turning Earth, to all the other makerspaces in the city. One day perhaps a common currency. A collective voice that will enable us to get more powerful representation when negotiating contracts with our councils and other stakeholders. All the benefits of collectivisation and collaboration. For years I have found the concept of collaboration as challenging as I thought it could be rewarding. Now I can see that something important is developing in this sphere. The human species has been competing for resources for too long. The makerspace movement can start seeding social change by demonstrating the possibilities that emerge when we put our most courageous face forward, and look for our common interests. When we learn to trust the people who we might naturally see as competitors then something new can emerge, that can benefit us all.
Collaboration. It's the future. Watch this space:
People often ask about the story behind Turning Earth. It happened again today so I thought that this time I'd share my answer with you.
I grew up around ceramics. My mother is a self-taught potter, a jack-of-all-trades kind of an artist who dabbles in everything. We had a wheel in our sitting room and a kiln in our conservatory. However, I wasn't all that interested. I associated clay with 'pottery class', the course my mum taught for children using the studio in the local comprehensive on a Saturday morning, which meant I had to get out of bed early at the weekend and so felt like drudgery.
Then, after working hard at university thinking I wanted to be a poet, and then an academic, I found myself in the corporate world as a sustainability consultant. I was bored out of my mind and disillusioned. I decided to take a course in pottery at Hackney Community College, because I wanted to do something more directly creative. I picked up the clay and got on the wheel and I had one of those memorable, life-changing moments of clarity. I felt like I'd been alive for a thousand years, as if I had been throwing pots for lifetime after lifetime. It was the first of many visionary experiences I've had in a ceramics studio.
Soon after, I quit the job and moved to California and briefly married an unknown novelist who couldn't get published. We had a romantic summer while he was retraining in journalism at Stanford University. They had an open-access pottery studio for all their students - and it wasn't even used by the art department. People who were studying as engineers, who have since been snapped up by Google, mathematicians, very mentally creative people, all used the studio as a way to create balance in their lives. Their level of skill was amazing - in my opinion, it wasn't paralleled by people coming out of masters courses in the UK. And this was just a hobby.
Part of me wanted to be a potter, but I had another big part of my personality that wanted to do something organisational. I didn't want to have to choose. I felt angry that the UK seemed to offer only two choices - either do evening classes and dabble but don't really get into it, or quit your job and do a three-year degree. It seemed to me (and still does) that I didn't want to either be an artist or not be one. I didn't want to choose; I wanted to do both. I wanted a hobby studio that was good enough that I could turn pro if I wanted to.
One day, on the Stanford Campus, throwing a set of plates on the shores of a dried up lake, under the California sun and surrounded by agapanthus and hummingbirds, I had the idea for Turning Earth. It came out of my own moment of perfect happiness.
I then went on a tour of the US, working as a theatre manager, and was able to try out ten different studios in five different States. I studied each of them and stored up the best elements for Turning Earth. One in particular, Mudfire in Atlanta, Georgia, gave us the membership model that makes everything work.
Long story short, the novelist became a New York Times bestseller, and I - inspired - moved back to the UK and started looking for a place to set up. It took about a year. I started reaching out to other people who wanted the place to exist as much as I did and built a community around it. We crowdfunded the studio and sold places in advance. And now there are hundreds of people that use the studio every week, many of whom graduate to becoming full-time professionals without having to take the college route. Many others just use the place for therapy.
Since we opened, the vision of what is possible at Turning Earth has continued to grow. It feels as if we are still at the beginning.